Why would a company give away its “secret sauce” recipe for success? In Toyota’s case, the answer’s easy: because it’s the right thing to do, according to Jamie Bonini, president of the Toyota Production System Support Center, Inc.
How it all began: The TSSC, which last year celebrated its 30th anniversary, is a nonprofit organization founded by the auto manufacturer in 1992 to help other companies improve their manufacturing processes using the proprietary Toyota Production System.
- “In the early ’90s, companies would come visit our factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, for tours and asked, ‘How do you [manufacture] in the U.S. competitively?’ We said, ‘It’s TPS.’”
- TPS is Toyota’s lean-manufacturing system, based on the Japanese philosophies of jidoka (which can be roughly translated as “automation with a human touch”) and “Just-in-Time,” which refers to producing “only what is needed for the next process in a continuous flow.”
- Toyota said yes to the growing number of requests from outside the company to share TPS principles and soon developed an entire center devoted to TPS teaching.
The substance: TSSC, which is subsidized by Toyota, provides companies with the training needed to implement TPS principles, which help boost efficiency, product quality and workplace safety—while reducing costs and lead times.
- “TPS emphasizes the elimination of waste, continuous improvement and respect for people,” Bonini said.
The meaning of lean: TSSC has many long-term clients, some of which have been with the nonprofit for most of its three decades. The reason: TPS isn’t a one-and-done, single-size system that can be superimposed on all organizations the same way, Bonini said.
- “‘Lean’ has come to mean different things to different people,” he continued. “But this is what we mean by a Toyota production system: an organization-wide culture of highly engaged people who are solving problems and innovating to drive performance.”
- “When we work with a company, [our solution is] customized; it’s highly situational. What we’re trying to build in an organization is a culture. And to build it, it has to be nurtured, fortified. That’s why we like these longer-term engagements.”
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